This is not a post about what equipment you’ll need to buy for your baby. It’s a post about what you don’t need to buy! I’m already starting to forget this information so I want to record it before I do. Hopefully this post and your comments might save someone from an unnecessary purchase or two.
Here are just ten ideas, but I’m sure there are many other unnecessary products out there, so I’d love to hear from you too.
[Before I start, a language warning. We have funny names for some things here in Australia. A nappy is what you might refer to as a diaper, a dummy is what you might call a pacifier and a cot is what you might know of as a crib!]
1. Too many soft toys. These things collect dust and add to the clutter. I bought lots of these over the years thinking they would be The One. But actually I was surprised by the teddy bears my children ended up choosing. Also, babies don’t tend to bond with teddy bears until they’re a bit older. Save your money until later, perhaps for the first birthday.
2. Bath soap. When my babies were newborns, I never used any soap in their baths. I heard that the vernix babies are born with protects their delicate skin, and soap breaks this down too quickly. Even now, I only use a tiny amount of soap, unless they have been making mud pies, which is often! And I think the more shampoo you use, the oilier the scalp becomes.
3. Fancy lotions. Olive oil is the best treatment for cradle cap: just let it soak in and then comb it out in the bath. And cheap conditioner, left in, protects against head lice when they begin to socialise with other children.
4. Playpen. We had one of these, but I was always scared of the baby falling over and hitting their head on the bars, so we rarely used it. Baby-proof your whole house instead: it’s much safer that way.
5. Walker, Jolly Jumper or ‘exerciser’. These kinds of devices aren’t recommened by physiotherapists, and are banned in some countries. You can’t teach a baby to crawl or walk, they learn these skills by rolling around on the floor.
6. Sleeping aids, like special oils, vibrating seats or swings. In fact, any product that claims it will help you or your baby get more sleep (or give you more free time) is to be treated with a healthy suspicion. The best way to settle a baby is to get good advice from your doctor and family health nurse. Often they suggest simple things like good nighttime routines, swaddling and rocking.
7. Baby monitor. They are unnecessary in a small house. From the day you become a parent, you’ll always be listening out for your child.
8. A fancy cot. See my tips on cots here. We never used a toddler bed either. I don’t think they are necessary, but some parents find them convenient, as you can see in the comments in this article on Apartment Therapy. We moved straight into this Ikea single bed with bars on three sides, and turned the free side to the wall so they wouldn’t fall out of bed.
9. Too many cute clothes. I think that if you have too many clothes, then you never get to the bottom of your laundry pile. Baby will end up wearing one-peice suits most of the time as they are the most practical. My babies looked so beautiful in their plain white one-peices. There’s plenty of time for pretty dresses and mini football guernseys later.
10. Too many toys. The less toys kids have, the more they use their creativity and imaginations. Babies tend to outgrow the toys they have every few weeks as their brains develop. Joining a Toy Library is a good way to take the pressure of yourself having to buy them new toys all the time. When my babies were newborn I felt a bit strange giving them toys that had been used by others, but the older they became the less I worried. They love going to the Toy Library.
Remember the Rule of One: if you only have, say, one dummy in the house you’ll take care not to lose it and thus always be able to find it. But if you have several, you’ll never be able to find one when you need it!
‘Stocking up on baby essentials’ is less important than you might think in the final months of your pregnancy. As long as you have the basics covered, which I’ll talk about in Part 2, it would be better to buy the bigger items on an as-needs basis after baby arrives. When we had our first baby we were living in rural Australia, so we had to buy all our items in a couple of frantic trips to town. If only I’d discovered internet shopping back then!
These days, when I am invited to a baby shower, I think back to the time when I first became a mother. I remember how anxious I felt about the prospect of suddenly dropping one income and having a lot more expenses. I usually give cash or vouchers as baby shower gifts, as I know the expecting parents will do a much better job than me of picking out what they really need for their baby.
What baby items have you found aren’t worth the money?